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Medical Waste Program FAQ

What is Medical Waste?

Medical Waste is generated as a result of diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals; and meets the definition of biohazardous and/or sharps waste. This includes, but is not limited to:

  1. Blood or body fluids – liquid blood elements or other regulated body fluids or articles contaminated with blood or body fluids.
  2. Chemotherapy waste
  3. Contaminated animals – animal carcasses, body parts, bedding materials.
  4. Isolated waste – waste contaminated with excretion, exudate or secretions from humans or animals that are isolated due to highly communicable diseases (**Centers for Disease Control, Biosafety Level 4**).
  5. Laboratory wastes –specimen or microbiological cultures, stacks of infectious agents, live and attenuated vaccines and culture mediums, vials or vacutainers containing blood or blood products.
  6. Pharmaceutical waste (not including chemotherapeutic, antineoplastic, or cytotoxic drugs)
  7. Sharps – syringes, needles, blades, and broken glass.
  8. Surgical specimens – human or animal parts or tissues removed surgically or by autopsy. (Anatomical or Pathology Waste)

What is Biohazardous Waste?

Biohazardous Waste includes, but is not limited to, laboratory waste, microbiology specimens, surgery specimens, infectious animal parts, waste with recognizable fluid blood, and infectious excreta or secretions from humans.

What is Sharps Waste?

Sharps Waste includes, but is not limited to, hypodermic needles, hypodermic needles with syringes, blades, needles with attached tubing, syringes contaminated with biohazardous waste, and broken glass.

Who is required to have a Medical Waste Generator Permit?

All businesses that produce any amount of medical waste (as described above) are required to have a Medical Waste Generator Permit. This may include, but is not limited to, dental offices, veterinary and medical clinics, hospitals, and doctor's offices. An annual fee is associated with this permit. Contact us at or 925-608-5500 for further details.

What are home-generated sharps and unwanted medications?

Sharps waste and unwanted medications derived from a household, including a multifamily residence or household.

How do I dispose of my home-generated sharps?

As of September 1, 2008, SB1305 has prohibited the disposal of home generated sharps into any container used for private or commercial collection of solid waste, recyclable materials, or green waste. This includes roll-off containers used for the collection of solid waste, construction and demolition debris, green waste, or other recyclable materials.

In 2018, the Pharmaceutical and Sharps Waste Stewardship Law created home-generated sharps stewardship programs that were industry run with CalRecycle providing oversight and approving the program plans. As of August 31, 2022, CalRecycle has approved stewardship plans for 3 organizations. A current list of plan approvals can be found on CalRecycle's webpage.

Sharps are required to be placed in an approved sharps container and managed through a medical waste management facility, an approved home sharps collection site which could include, but is not limited to pharmacies and hospitals, or by using an approved mail back system. Some resources for finding locations to dispose of home-generated sharps are below:

  2. Med-Project
  3. CDPH List of Home Generated Sharps Consolidation Points (Link near bottom of page)
  4. CalRecycle - Household Sharps Waste Disposal
  5. Contra Costa Waste Reduction and Recycling

How do I safely dispose of my unwanted medications?

Please see our Safe Drug Disposal Web Page for more information.

How do I start a safe drug disposal program for kiosk drop off and/or mail back service?

You must have a stewardship plan approved by Contra Costa County. A stewardship plan complying with Contra County Safe Drug Disposal Ordinance 418-16, a completed Pharmaceutical Stewardship Application, Stewardship Plan Checklist and the corresponding fee all must be submitted to Contra Costa County Environmental Health.